Enamel Paint for Outdoor Use: What to Watch Out For

Enamel paints are really quite popular recently and I can easily understand why. They create a nice smooth finish if applied correctly, they are available in a wide variety of different colors (including effect colors), and you can get them in either gloss, matt, or satin. You can use them on a lot of different materials but one question, that is asked a lot and is seemingly never really answered, is if enamel paints can be used outside and if they can withstand the elements. So in this article I will answer this question and explain exactly, what you have to watch out for when using enamel paints on objects, that will sit outside.

Enamel paints can be used outdoors but not every kind of enamel paint is weather resistant. Most lacquer-based and oil-based Enamel Paints can be used outside but acrylic-based Enamel Paints will not survive for long. However, it is always a good idea to use a primer and a topcoat to ensure the longevity of the Paint.

Generally, I would recommend checking the label of your Enamel paint to see what kind of enamel paint it is before you start to paint anything with it.

Oil-based paint tends to be very smelly when it is not dry yet, so it is a good idea to only paint the object outside, regardless if the item will be sitting outside or inside after it has dried.

But because oil is inherently water repellent an oil-based paint, such as some Enamel paints, will be naturally water-resistant. So when your Enamel Paints are oil-based, then you will be able to use them outside without needing to seal them.

Lacquer paints can also smell very bad and if your Enamel Paints are lacquer based then chances are very good, that you can use them outside.

Laquer is water-resistant and it will not yellow in the sun. So you will not use a primer or a topcoat but I would still use at least a topcoat, just in case.

If your Enamel Paint is acrylic-based, however, I would not use it for any objects, that are going to be outside in the rain or in the sun unless you use a primer and a topcoat to protect the paint properly.

Is Enamel Paint Weather Resistant?

There are a lot of use cases for enamel paints and quite a lot of them are going to be outside but what kind of enamel paints are weather resistant?

Oil-based and lacquer-based Enamel Paints are weather resistant but it is still recommended to apply a primer before painting and a topcoat to seal the paint. The Enamel Paint could start to peel off or the paint could be scratched off if no primer and no topcoat is applied to protect the paint job.

While Enamel Paints, which are either oil or lacquer-based, are naturally already quite weather resistant it is still not a bad idea to apply a primer and a topcoat.

A Primer is applied to the surface before painting it. The Primer will prepare the surface for painting and ensure, that the paint has an optimal surface to stick to.

So the Paint will not come off as easily and it will be quite scratch resistant if a primer is applied before painting.

A topcoat is a thin layer of protective translucent lacquer or varnish, that is applied on top of the dry paint.

This coat will protect the paint from the elements and ensure, that the paint will not come off, it will protect the paint from any water, and more.

You can apply only a primer or only a topcoat but if you want your paint job to last a very long time, then I would recommend using both.

Is Enamel Paint Waterproof?

Another question a lot of new crafters have is if enamel paint is naturally waterproof. And again, there is no clear and precise answer because it depends on a lot of different factors.

Enamel Paint is waterproof if it is oil-based or lacquer-based but it will only stick to some surfaces like uncoated wood without preparation. So most surfaces like metal or stone have to be prepared with a primer before painting them or the paint may not last long.

Most Enamel Paints are waterproof right out of the box and don´t require any topcoat or sealing.

The only type of Enamel paint, that is not waterproof is Acrylic Enamel Paint. If you want to use Acrylic Enamel Paint outdoors then a primer and a topcoat will be necessary to ensure the longevity of the paint.

Oil-based or Lacquer Enamel Paints don´t need a topcoat but they will need a primer if you want to permanently apply them to any surface. Even though there are some surfaces, that don´t need to be primed beforehand, like untreated wood, it is still recommended to prime every surface before applying any kind of paint.

This will just ensure, that the paint can create a strong and permanent bond with the underlying material.

I would recommend sealing the Enamel Paint with a topcoat if the sun will be hitting the paint a lot. The topcoat will protect the paint from the UV-rays and thus avoid any discoloration.